Best Electric Guitars for Beginners

(NOTE: Want unbiased comparisons of the top guitar brands and models? Get JamPlay’s 2017 Guitar Buyer’s Guide here for free!)

So, you want to play guitar and you want it to be loud. We like that about you. While a lot of beginning guitar players choose an acoustic guitar as their first instrument, there’s something to be said for plugging in and rocking out from the get-go. We’re going to help you get started.

In our last article we talked about best acoustic guitars for beginners. Now, let’s look at electric guitars and talk about the things you want to look for when you’re in the market to rock.

First Things First: The Difference Between Acoustic and Electric Guitars

Sure, acoustic and electric guitars tend to look different, but the key difference is JamPlay Electric Guitar Factthe way that they produce sound. Basically, an acoustic guitar depends on the top of the guitar (where the sound hole is), to pick up the vibrations of the stings and resonate to create the sound.

An electric guitar, on the other hand, relies on electronics and amplification to produce its sound. Electric guitar bodies have electromagnetic pickups that convert string vibration into electric signals. These electric signals then pass through an external amplifier, which produces the sound.

Of course, there are other differences that may sway you in one direction or another, so we suggest looking at both options and seeing what is right for you.

Next Step: Do Your Homework

Narrow Your OptionsLet’s quickly review the things you need to look at when shopping for any guitar – acoustic or electric:

  1. Set your budget and think about your goals.
  2. Look at online manufacturer and retail sites and check out the reviews. Odds are good that other beginners have done some of your research for you and have shared their experiences. Use it.
  3. Go to a local music store and try out the guitars that interested you online.

Options, Options and More Options

When it comes to electric guitars, there are great options in every price range. Finding a guitar that is comfortable to play and that sounds good are really the two main things you should be looking for. Remember, as you are learning to play the guitar, you are also training your ear, so you want to make sure that your guitar holds its tuning and feels good to play.

That being said, there are several things that will come up when you are looking at electric guitars that may seem confusing, so let’s break them down so you can go in with the knowledge to make the best choice for you:

Solid Body vs. Hollow Body Guitars: Simply put, solid body electric guitars are probably what you are thinking of when you picture an electric guitar, since it is the most common type. Solid body guitars are exactly that: a solid wood body that has the electronics mounted on the guitar to create the sound. A Hollow Body Guitar has all of the characteristics of an acoustic guitar (sound hole, hollowed out body), but it is fitted with electronics that allow its sound to be amplified while retaining its “acoustic sound”.

Wood Type: The wood that is used in manufacturing guitars varies and can be anything from rosewood to mahogany to ash. The type of wood used not only affects the sound of the guitar, but also the price. We suggest that, for your first guitar, you focus less on what it’s made of and more on how it sounds. Of course, if you are looking to make a serious investment, you’ll want to consider the materials that are used, but if your goal is to simply start playing (and learning) go for the sound that you like and don’t sweat the details as much.

Pickups: Pickups are the tone-producing hardware on your guitar. The type of pickup you choose will impact the sound greatly, so be sure to consider what (or who) you would like to sound like when you are selecting your hardware.  Odds are that, for your first guitar, you’ll be choosing between a single-coil pickup or a humbucker pickup. Here’s the difference: The single coil pickup creates more of a “twangy” sound and are suitable for any player, but is often favored by fans of blues-rock, country and roots-rock. Humbuckers are simply double coil pickups. They have a fatter, warmer tone and are often favored by hard rock, metal players and jazzers.

(NOTE: Want unbiased comparisons of the top guitar brands and models? Get JamPlay’s 2017 Guitar Buyer’s Guide here for free!)

Some Final Tips

Remember that buying your first guitar should be fun. Don’t let yourself be overwhelmed by the options that are out there. Your mission is to find the best Beginner Electric Guitarsguitar for you. Once you’ve learned the basics, you can start thinking about all of the cool bells and whistles that can help you evolve your sound as your skills advance. Again, comfort and sound quality are your two most important factors for your first electric guitar… nail those two things and you can’t make a wrong choice.

Once you’ve purchased your guitar, you’re going to be ready to start shredding right away. Online lessons are a great way to get rocking immediately. Join us on JamPlay.com for access to guitar lessons for all ages and skills levels. Learn to play like your favorite musicians, or join us for a live group session with one of our awesome instructors. It’s the fastest way to go from wanting to play to actually doing it!

Learning anything new can be a challenge, but those challenges can be fun and rewarding, especially if you set yourself up to succeed. The right guitar and the right guidance are keys to your success so find what is right for you and go for it. We look forward to seeing you rocking out soon!

 

How Much Should I Spend on a First Guitar?

(NOTE: Want unbiased comparisons of the top guitar brands and models? Get JamPlay’s 2017 Guitar Buyer’s Guide here for free!)

One of the most confusing  and enraging experiences a new guitarist can have is choosing a first guitar. You are forced to think about whether you want to play an acoustic or electric guitar, what style of instrument to get, how much to spend and even more mystical decisions such as choosing the materials the guitar itself is made of. In this article we are going to be talking about how much to spend on a first guitar, as this decision must be made before evaluating an individual instrument.

This is a point which receives much contention. Some believe that the cheapest possible guitar should be purchased, especially for a child, to prevent the unnecessary expenditure of money in the event the guitar ends up collecting dust in an attic. There is of course a wisdom to this logic, at least on the surface….  once you delve a bit deeper the flaws with this method of thinking become evidently clear.

To put things simply, a cheap piece of junk will play like a cheap piece of chunk.  While purchasing an $80 guitar at Wal-Mart may sound harmoniously delightful to the wallet, the person playing the guitar is not likely to find it so amusing.  There are a host of problems that come along with purchasing a cheap guitar that can make the instrument a chore instead of a joy to play, which unfortunately can make some players give up the instrument for good.

Why Cheap Guitars are Lame
First and foremost, the instrument is likely to have poor playability. The action of the guitar, or the distance between the strings and fretboard, can often be far too high on less expensive guitars. This can occur because the instrument simply has cheap components and materials,  the guitar was never properly set up at the factory or even the specifications and design of the guitar are so inadequate a good setup is not even possible. .  Poor playability will mean certain chords will be difficult if not possible to play for a beginner, such as barre chords that require 6 strings be held down at the same time.  It will also contribute to pain in the fingers, wrist and forearms.   When a new player is just starting out it is important that the instrument be a fun and exciting experience for them, not something that is a trial on a consistent basis. Take a moment and imagine all of the would be guitarists who have given up on the world of music because their first experience with a guitar was a painful or frustrating one.

Cheap guitars also suffer from cheap electronics, if they have them at all. Regardless of whether you are playing an electric guitar or an acoustic that can be plugged in, this will translate into poor sound from an amplifier or PA system. This means that should you progress far enough that you wish to play in a band, at your school, church or any other public venue, you will have an instrument that is of no use. If the guitar contains no electronics, which usually occurs in cheaper acoustic guitars, your only option will be putting a microphone up to your instrument, which will require further complication and expenditure on your end.

It is also most likely that an extremely cheap guitar is being sold by an outlet that will not support you. Guitars purchased from Wal-Mart, Target, Bestbuy or other “big box” stores are likely not able to offer you any advice on the purchase of your instrument, or give you any further after purchase support should you require it. When purchasing a nicer instrument at a local music shop you can have the comfort that should a problem with your instrument occur, they will likely support you and generally have a guitar tech on staff to fix any problems that may arise.

There are not nearly as many guitars that fall in the sub $100 range, limiting your choice of colors, style and size. Obviously playability and sound are paramount when choosing a guitar, but let’s be realistic, looking cool is important too!

With all of these disadvantages, it then stands to reason that if the instrument does not make you quit altogether, you will end up buying another one shortly anyway to make up for the shortcomings.  It makes far more sense to buy a good instrument now and avoid having to purchase a better instrument in a few months.

So, What Should I Buy Then?
Fortunately this part is quite simple! Buy either what you like the most, or what you can comfortably afford. While I think it is short sighted to buy an excessively cheap guitar, it is not a good idea to go into debt or be forced to eat ramen noodles for a month simply to have an instrument.  For some people this number might be $300 and for others it might be $1,000. But as a general rule instruments in the $300-$500 range will be of a decent quality and last for years.

I would highly recommend you visit a local music store and play around with as many guitars as you can. Strum a few chords and find an instrument that sounds right to you. Take some time and make sure your hand fits comfortably on the fretboard. Make sure you like the appearance and the personality of the guitar.  Even if you are not yet skilled on the instrument, simply getting a feel for how it sits in your hands and on your body can be a huge boon.   Most shops carry guitars that are suitable in size for both children and the largest man alike. If you experience any confusion regarding this process you can ask a knowledgeable salesman, something you are likely not going to find buying a budget guitar from a big box retailer.

Summary

To be realistic, buying a cheap guitar offers the following disadvantages:

  • Cheap materials which will make it difficult to play and reduce sound quality.
  • The playability is likely going to be bad which will discourage new players.
  • The support options will likely be limited in the event of problems.
  • Lack of electronics and features will likely mean buying another instrument in the future.
  • It’s much harder to resell a poor quality guitar.

If you buy a good guitar right off the bat you will receive the following advantages:

  • A guitar that will look and play good directly from the factory. You will likely not need to pay for a setup right away.
  • The instrument will sound much better due to higher quality woods and materials.
  • The fretboard will likely be more comfortable and easier to play, translating into less pain and misery.
  • Both the guitar shop and manufacturer are likely to give you more support.
  • Better features such as built in electronics, tuners, equalization, etc.
  • A nicer guitar will be easier to sell should you decide to upgrade.

If you have the money, it makes sense to buy a good instrument. This doesn’t have to mean spending thousands (though it can if you are affluent enough), but it does mean setting a minimum budget of around $300-$500 dollars. This will get you (or your loved one) a better instrument that they are far more likely to play and fall in love with. If a super cheap instrument is the only option with your budget, please look at pawn shops, craiglist, eBay or other sources of used instruments before settling on a brand new guitar that costs $100 or less.  You will likely find a better instrument that will last a longer.  If you should find yourself cursed with an abysmal instrument and no way of getting another, look into getting it properly set up by a professional, this should at least alleviate some of the issues and allow you to bide your time until a better instrument can be purchased.

(NOTE: Want unbiased comparisons of the top guitar brands and models? Get JamPlay’s 2017 Guitar Buyer’s Guide here for free!)

If after this read you are still hankering for more information on the subject, Jim Deeming has a dedicated video on the subject for all JamPlay members entitled “Buying a Guitar.